Killing Time by Zach Wyner

At 10:30 AM the doorbell rang.  Faye noted the time, thirty minutes to kill before she’d have to start getting ready for her appointment.  She stubbed out her cigarette and there followed a knock.  She got up from her desk, breezed down the hall in her sweat shorts and tee and opened the door.  The heat smacked her cheeks.  She shielded her eyes from the glare, smelled the baking asphalt.  Before her stood the same thickly built UPS man as always, betraying no hint of recognition.

“Morning,” he said, thrusting a clipboard at her, a shoebox-sized package tucked under his left armpit.

“They said it’s going to be over a hundred again today,” she said, as she signed.  She handed the clipboard back.  He nodded and scanned the paperwork.  “Must get hot in that van.  That is… well, I assume you have no air-conditioning.”

He lowered his eyes to hers, black like his hair.  He tilted his head the right, peering behind her into the empty house.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I guess.”

“Can I get you anything?” she said.  “A glass of water?  A Diet Coke?”

“No tips,” he said.

“Oh, just a glass of water,” she said.  “I’d say that hardly qualifies.”

He pursed his lips and glanced at his watch.

“Okay,” he said.  “One glass of water.  I’ve got…”

“A busy day ahead,” she said.  “Of course you do.  One glass of water, coming up.”

Faye stepped aside.  He crossed the threshold, and stopped, scanning the hallway, the staircase, the living room.  The scent of his suntan lotion saturated the recycled air.  She closed the door behind him as he swiped perspiration from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt.

“Where do you want this?” he said.

“Follow me,” she said, leading him down the hall towards the kitchen.  His keys jangled on a chain.  She could feel his warmth, his bulk, his breath on her back.  He possessed a solidity that made her feel positively frail, as though the blow of the air-conditioning might lift her off her feet and usher her up the chimney.  She entered the kitchen and opened the cupboard.  She nodded at the granite-topped island.

“Right there’s fine,” she said.

He put the package down, turned around and leaned back, placing his palms on the granite where he would leave behind moist semi-circles.
“Nice kitchen,” he said.  “Looks brand new.”
Faye smiled.  She filled a glass with water from the filter.
“Here you go,” she said.

“Thanks.”  Their fingers brushed as he took the glass.  She watched his gaze slide down her body and come to rest on her bare legs.  A moth in her belly beat its wings.  He raised his eyes to hers and she held them there.  He took long gulps.  He let out a satisfied, “ahhh,” and handed her the empty glass.

“Guess I better shove off,” he said, not moving.

“You’re sure you wouldn’t like anything else?” she asked.

“Lots of deliveries,” he said.  “It’s only gonna get hotter.”

“Of course,” she said, turning her back on him to rinse the glass.  “The Dog Days,” she said.  “So to speak.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, right.” he said.  “What are those again?”

“Excuse me?” she said.

“The Dog Days, I never did…”

Faye chuckled.  She placed the glass on the dish rack.

“They’re the hot ones,” she said.  She faced the UPS man, his furrowed brow.  He scratched his head.  “Anyways,” she said, looking at the floor.

“Right,” he said.  “Back to work.”  He walked out of the room, keys jangling, boots clumping the hardwood.

“Have a nice day,” she called.  He grunted and the door closed behind him.  She discovered the index finger of her right hand tracing circles around the lump.  How long it had been there she could not say.  The clock on the kitchen wall read 10:40.

She looked at the package, addressed to her husband.  She withdrew a knife from the butcher’s block and ran it through the packing tape, liberating the scent of fresh leather.  My shoes, she thought, with mild surprise.  She had forgotten that she used his credit card to pay for them.  She withdrew them and sat on a stool.  They were cross trainers, hideous, all intersecting lines and clashing colors.  She laced them up and slipped them on.  She had planned to cut down on smoking, get back in shape.  She had thought that with a pair of running shoes she might finally try doing some laps around the lake; nothing too ambitious, a few miles a day.  Running on concrete was hard on her knees, but she couldn’t stand treadmills, couldn’t imagine a more joyless activity.

She paced the hallway.  Back and forth, rubber soles squeaking while her toes wiggled, making certain they had adequate space.  She grabbed her keys and burst through the front door into the raging heat.  She sprinted up the empty sidewalk, past the row of roasting cars, daggers of sunlight reflecting off their windshields.  Sprinklers watering modest, green lawns left a fine mist on her bare legs.  She hit the corner and turned around, sprinting back, harder this time.  Knees up, fists pumping, she flew past her house, running out of her hair, her lungs, her lump.  She reached the corner and doubled over, pressing her palms into her knees.  A weight like an elephant sat on her chest.  The air was thick.  It felt like she was sucking it in through a straw.

Comments · 18

  1. Zach, you have such an angle in your work to keep the reader grounded in the physical environment of the story while reflecting the emotional landscape simultaneously. Nice!

  2. Zach,
    This piece has so many pregnant moments . You effectively created a strong sense of movement approaching and peeks of complexity within Faye. Your physical desriptions bring us right in while also holding the interior of the moments and character. I will say that my interest is peaked by this and I ended wanting more….a common response of mine to short stories!

  3. Are we killing time, or is it the other way around? Great title. I want more! I love the image this sentence conjures up…He possessed a solidity that made her feel positively frail, as though the blow of the air-conditioning might lift her off her feet and usher her up the chimney. Poetry. Thanks for sending me this link and congratulations on being published! XOO Julie

  4. Clear, sharp and beautifully written. A pleasure to read. The exciting beginning of your career.

  5. Wow, Zach! I read the story twice and want to read it again. Every word sounds and feels important, like poetry, and like life in anxious moments like the ones described in your story. Congratulations!

  6. Emotionally powerful. The story stays with you long after you put it down. The last paragraph leaves the reader as breathless as Faye. A terrific piece of writing.

  7. Zach, you have an extraordinary grasp on the specific sensory details of where we are and who is talking to who and what they are trying often clumsily as in life to say to one another. You pay attention to life and pass it on. We are all story tellers. You are a particularly good one.

  8. The tone and weight of your descriptions are so evocative, and set the table for the sexual tension that connects us to this “life and death” moment. Weaving these elements together, in such short order, leaves the reader doubled over, gasping for air…remarkable!

  9. What I love most about both of your stories is how memorable they are. I suppose that’s because as soon as I started reading, I was transported to those places, as though I was there. Wonderful work. I agree with everyone else, MORE!

  10. very cool stuff. . . like all good stories, i keep thinking that “something” is going to happen, but when it doesn’t happen and the story is over, I remember that that’s why readers read, and why writers write – the “something” that happens is inside our heads, put there by the setup that you gave us. . . Loved it!

  11. Hey, Zach. I really enjoyed this story. I love the eloquent descriptive prose contrasted with the sparse dialogue and characterization of the UPS delivery man. The story was filled with surprises and things to question and ponder while keeping us right there with the pace of the story unfolding. Congrats on publishing, and I’m sure we’ll see lots more from you.

  12. I liked the story Z. My comment is on what I liked best. After the flirtatious interchange I was taken by suprise when the box was from her husband. The comment that she remembered buying the shoes on her husbands credit card, instantly followed by her pulling out the Butcher KINFE to open it -was great timing, and great symbolism- It triggered my thoughts after I finished the story. I found myself thinking about the knife, and it lead me to reflect on the empty apartment, like she had just moved in, then my thoughts went to her wanting to better herself, which I thought about in connection to her having recently split from her husband. Maybe he cheated, maybe he made her feel bad. Either way any break up for any reason is hard on ones ego. These thougts I had all because of the symbolism, or the suggestion. If It had not been so subtle I believe I would not have reflected within the story like I did. And this was the joy I had in reading it. I LIKE YOUR WRITING Z.

  13. While I was reading it- this particular sentence made the impression on me that Zach has it. That something. This line was the first moment I was influenced

    The scent of his suntan lotion saturated the recycled air

  14. I loved your stories. They both described the surroundings and situation so clearly in a short amount of space. I could imagine being in the setting, the words took me there. The little girl, the uncle, the woman and the ups driver were all somehow so real, like you could reach out and touch them. Thank you.

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